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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rich Bounty
The Bounty (1984) was one of those films that kind of fell under the radar in most circles, and that's a shame. It's actually a moody, tension-filled piece, well-acted, well-shot and fairly realistic looking, betraying little of its early-80s origins (the effective but slightly dated Vangelis score notwithstanding). With a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson (in an early role, already the pin-up), Bernard Hill (recently seen in the Lord of the Rings), Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson and even Laurence Olivier, how can you go wrong?

I was surprised to learn recently that the Bounty had a tortured and painful gestation, which may explain why it was under-promoted and generally forgotten upon release. It was originally developed as the project that would re-unite masterful writer Robert Bolt (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago) with director David Lean (well.... same as above...). It was conceived variously as a two-parter, or one 3 1/2-hour epic. This is probably what attracted the A-list cast, but for reasons that remain unclear, the situation unravelled, and journeyman director Roger Donaldson (who recently helmed the skillful Thirteen Days) was brought in to shoot a version of the film from a heavily edited Bolt script. Neither Bolt nor Lean were happy with this result, and would not work together again. (Bolt went on to write The Mission and Lean directed A Passage to India before they both passed away.)

Why do I know this story? Because the British DVD edition of the film is loaded with extras that discuss it, including commentary tracks, a contemporary documentary and other special features of which the film is deserving. This is unlike the Canadian and American DVD (commonly called "region one") that contains nothing but a reasonable transfer of the film itself.

A shame - why did the Brits get a spectacular product while we got a bare-bones release? Probably because someone in the marketing department at MGM saw the film, as many did, as a cheap failure from the early 80s, instead of the effective and dramatic piece it is. Let's hope they find the error of their ways soon and give this movie the attention it deserves.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 6/22/2005 Comments (1)
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At 2:32 AM, cinema said...

Thanks for bringing this film to the attention of your readers. THE BOUNTY has been unjustly neglected.

It is a good film, and very ably acted and directed from the remainder of Robert Bolt's screenplay.

The film's reputation had been sullied even before release, because it was well-known that the project had been taken away from Bolt and Lean. Those who had been brought in to make the thing were seen as executors of a bad decision by the producers.

And, although the film as realized is a good story told well, one does wonder what might have been made from a two part screenplay by two artists who were already past masters of the long-form, "epic" filmmaking. While it was known to be Bolt and Lean's project, one anticipated more than an entertainment: an artistic "testament" by its creators. By that standard, THE BOUNTY falls short, good as it is.

A U S T I N ,


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